Caruana Wins To Join Crowded Sinquefield Cup Lead
Caruana defeated Nakamura in the only decisive game of round four. | Photo: Mike Klein/

Caruana Wins To Join Crowded Sinquefield Cup Lead

| 38 | Chess Event Coverage

For the past two days at the 2018 Sinquefield Cup, four draws have preceded a lengthy decisive game that has gone into the dinner hour.

In round four, that script seemed to be getting Xeroxed, but after a quartet of draws, Fabiano Caruana was able to finish off Hikaru Nakamura without a protracted ending. Bad for fans, but a huge relief for the vocal cords of the commentators.

His game lasted just over four hours and now exactly half the field (five players) are at the top of the standings with 2.5/4.

Caruana Svidler

Peter Svidler gave up a spot in the Russian Superfinals to do commentary in St. Louis, and maybe here he's thanking Fabiano Caruana for not making him put in another 6.5-hour shift! | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour.

Caruana, who hasn't lost a true classical game to Nakamura since Norway, 2015, chalked up his win thanks to something he'd prepared a few months back: castling queenside after a Catalan structure.

But don't expect the idea to become fashionable, or fodder for Magnus Carlsen's world championship preparation. It's as ephemeral as a one-time code sent to your phone.

"I'll try it for one game but it's probably not something that's going to stick around," Caruana said, adding that he thought he'd only ever employ the idea in a rapid game.


Hikaru Nakamura has now lost two games in a row, although a lot would still have to go wrong for him not to qualify for London. | Photo: Mike Klein/

The position before castling queenside in Caruana-Nakamura was nearly the same as Carlsen-Karjakin from round two (White's pawn was on a2 instead of a3). Whereas Carlsen moved only his rook to d1, Caruana also hopped his king over to c1 in addition (not in that order of course—he does know FIDE castling procedures!).


"He played logical moves, just not the best moves," Caruana said, adding that 35...f5 was "really risky" and the followup 36...fxe4 was "out of desperation." conducted a video interview with Caruana, where we find out what his dream sponsorship would be.

Watch Fabiano Caruana On His Winning Record Against Nakamura from Chess on

As in the previous two days, this last game to finish was the lone battle to produce a winner.

The 2013 and 2014 world championship redux probably held the most intrigue of today's draws, and not just because of the players. Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen played nearly two dozen games in those twin clashes, yet the Norwegian never once played the Sicilian as Black.

Carlsen Anand

Viswanathan Anand played 1. e4 almost exclusively in Chennai 2013, but Magnus Carlsen never replied 1...c5. In Sochi 2014, Anand only played 1. d4. | Photo: Mike Klein/

He's now played it twice this year against Anand—once at Grenke and once today. So why the switch?

"It's a good opening," was all Carlsen would say when asked by

"He mixes it up," Anand told "He's also been playing the Pirc. Today a couple of his decisions surprised me. He's constantly evolving."

Nakamura Anand

Magnus Carlsen also seems to be a 2800 at product placement. | Photo: Mike Klein/

The champ was excited to get to play with some freedom today. The game had multiple inflection points and several ways to keep it interesting.

"I was happy to get this one chance to play actively," he said. asked Anand if he thought it was an advantage to play the rapid/blitz event beforehand for practice, or an advantage to have Carlsen's schedule and only arrive for the classical.

"On balance, I'd rather be fresh," he said. "It's 50-50. Anyway you can always play some blitz online (to prepare)."


Arianne Caoili, Levon Aronian, Sergey Karjakin, Alexander Riazantsev, and some completely random, well-dressed guy in the middle. | Photo: Mike Klein/

Alexander Grischuk vs. Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, another Sicilian, could have produced an even more fascinating game, but instead fizzled into an early repetition. The Russian tried out the same setup against MVL's Najdorf that Caruana and Anand have also both essayed in St. Louis.

Then, Grischuk had announced his intentions for some fun with an exchange sacrifice on g4. In fact today was a heady day for "G4" as the rapper Post Malone's Gulfstream IV had to make an emergency landing after circling the New York area for four hours. Both the plane and Grischuk's game landed peacefully.

Vachier-Lagrave said there's so much to know in the Najdorf and he expected his opponent to have something more planned.

"I expected Sasha to be prepared but clearly he wasn't," Vachier-Lagrave said. 

The Frenchman has scored four draws but no one is running away with the event. He said that's satisfied with his two Najdorfs but wishes he could get more with White, where he promised more aggressiveness going forward.

"I'm still within striking distance," he said. "There's no reason to go all-in (tomorrow)."

Two players on minus scores had the chance to get back in the fight, but alas, Wesley So against Sergey Karjakin also ended in a draw.


Sergey Karjakin said part of his poor start was based on the draw. "It was very difficult pairings. I started with two Blacks. When they [Carlsen and Aronian] are in good form they are very good players!" | Photo: Mike Klein/

Earlier on, commentator GM Yasser Seirawan said he liked White's position so much that he would win 90 percent of the time with So's position. Did Karjakin agree? He couldn't say.

"I have never played against Yasser!" he said.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Levon Aronian drew in only 52 minutes, less time than some of the games in the rapid event last week.

Aronian Caoili

"Hey honey, will you be home for dinner?" — "I'll be home for lunch!" 

Newlyweds Levon Aronian and Arianne Caoili chat just before the round. | Photo: Mike Klein/

Curiously, even though half the field is tied for first, none of the five players on 2.5/4 is slated to play another in round five. Not to worry, Carlsen-Caruana still looms on Saturday's round seven.



Graphics courtesy Spectrum Studios.

The Sinquefield Cup, the final qualification leg of the Grand Chess Tour, is a nine-round tournament from August 17-28. At the end of the tournament, four players will qualify for the London finals. The games in St. Louis begin at 1 p.m. Central U.S. time daily (8 p.m. Central Europe).

Earlier reports:

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